How great are bees? They’re hard workers, some give us delicious honey, and they help put food on our plates. In fact, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, (IPBES) says $235 - $577 billion of global food production each year depends on bees and other pollinators. Not too shabby!
Here’s your ‘Bee Helpful’ checklist:
Plant pollen- and nectar-rich plants that bees like.
Just like us, bees need to make sure they get a healthy, nutritious diet. That’s why it’s super helpful to choose native plants which offer them a wide variety of nectar and pollen (some suggestions). Best to choose sunny spots if you can — bees love to soak up those rays! If you’re based in the U.S., keep the Feed a Bee program in mind. That’s our project to plant tasty forage (a.k.a. insect food) for bees and other pollinators, right across the country. You’ll see there are lots of ways to lend a hand, so get planting.
Mix it up to keep the blooms coming.
To keep feeding bees throughout the year, plant a variety of bee-friendly plants that bloom at different times and remember to tailor the ones you plant to fit your local growing conditions, wherever you are. For example, if you’re in the U.S., wild lilac blooms in the spring, snapdragon blooms in the early summer, heather blooms in the late summer, and zinnias bloom in the fall.
Give them shelter.
Wild bees need a safe place to nest and shelter, too! (But that doesn’t mean you have to invite them in for tea). Just provide some suitable habitats outside — some like hollow spaces, such as bamboo sticks, wooden logs with holes drilled in them, empty snail shells, and so on. Most wild bees (around 80% in fact) nest in the soil though, so leave a small patch of the garden bare or add a sand mound for them to use. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, build an insect hotel or start your own honey bee hive.
Serve up a little something to drink.
Offer them a source of fresh water — a small bird bath with a few stones thrown in should do the trick. You’ll need the stones so that the bees have a platform to stand on (they’ve only got little legs, after all).
Some people use plant protection products on their gardens, including insecticides to protect their flowers from pests. To keep bees safe, always read the product label and follow instructions for dosage and application carefully. It’s generally best to apply plant protection products when it isn’t windy, and in early morning or evening hours, when bees are less active.
Have you completed the whole list? Congrats, you’re the bee’s knees!